City officials hit the ground running on the future of the Lincoln County Fairgrounds Thursday morning, in holding the first Ad-Hoc Fairgrounds Committee meeting at City Hall.
Present at the meeting were committee members Mayor Bill Bialecki, Aldermen Ryan Schwartzman, Dave Sukow, Tim Meehan, John Burgener, and Rob Norton, as well as City Administrator Dave Johnson were present. Also in attendance were Aldermen Kandy Peterson, Pete Lokemoen and Chris Malm, Chamber Executive Director Debbe Kinsey, County Supervisor Garth Swanson, Parks & Recreation Director Dan Wendorf, Fire Chief Dave Savone, City Attorney Tom Hayden, and Gene Bebel.
City Administrator Johnson provided a list of 18 issues and concerns to be discussed. First among these was the replacement of the grandstand and its siting on the grounds.
It was agreed that the grandstand would need to be moved further to the west to facilitate a broader spectrum of events. Johnson will be preparing an RFP (Request for Proposal) for a roofed grandstand with several options including 2,500 and 3,000 seats, all bench seating, all stadium seating, or a combination of bench and stadium seating. The topic of grounds keeping and building maintenance was discussed. Individual buildings such as the Schultz Building and cattle barn were also discussed.
The Schultz Building could be renovated at a cost of $700,000, according to the county’s recent feasibility study, or replaced with a new and larger steel building that could be rented out for events. The cattle barn needs to have some wood siding replaced and then be painted, something that the county was under maintenance orders from the city to do but did not comply. In the future, the cattle barn could be resided with maintenance free siding, have the rotted base walk-in doors replaced and all rotunda windows replaced. All of the other buildings will have to be looked at closely, given the findings of the county’s feasibility study which found the majority of buildings to be in poor to fair condition.
Committee members also tackled the idea of renaming the soon-to-be-former Lincoln County Fairgrounds.
Suggestions included Merrill Event Grounds, Merrill Event Center, Merrill Festival Center, and others with no clear favorite. It was decided that a naming contest would be run through the Chamber of Commerce. Chamber president Debbe Kinsey plans to return to the next scheduled meeting on July 9 with suggestions on how to run the naming contest.
It was stressed by City Administrator Johnson that the fairgrounds did not deteriorate overnight so people cannot expect the city to turn it around in the first year; it will take several years to see a large improvement other than the new grandstand. According to Johnson, overall the meeting was very fruitful.